How to Do Laundry When Traveling on the Road and at Sea

laundry traveling
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Laundry is the last thing you want on your mind when traveling for work or vacation. But sometimes, it can become essential especially if you've had a mishap. Here are some tips to help you as you plan for a trip and while you're on the road.

Tips for Laundry on the Road

  • Learn how to handwash clothing before you hit the road alone for the first time.
  • If you have a number of clothes to wash, do it after your bath while you're in the shower. Fill the tub with a bit of water and handwash the clothes. Drain the soapy water and fill with fresh water to rinse. Open the drain and use your clean feet to help press out most of the water. Wring the clothes well and hang up to dry.
  • Wash soiled garments each evening if possible to prevent such a big load.
  • If you are traveling for several weeks with children, plan to stay in lodging that offers a laundry room or nearby laundromat.
  • Plan your wardrobe around a mid-trip visit at the home of friends or family. They'll be happy to share their laundry room.

Tips for Cruise Ship Laundry

While doing laundry may not fit into your cruise vacation image, it may be something to consider. Beyond handwashing laundry in the tiny bathroom sink, every ship offers laundry service. Most of the new mega ships also offer a self-service laundry room. The advantage of doing laundry on board is that you can pack lighter, saving extra luggage fees on airline flights and room for souvenirs.

  • Pack a lightweight mesh bag to transport clothing to and from the laundry room. Do-it-yourself services are much less expensive than having the porter take care of laundry.
  • No need to pack a roll of quarters. Laundry on board usually costs around $1.00 per load and bills are accepted. Vending machines are at the ready for dispensing laundry products.
  • Plan to do laundry early in the morning, late at night or when the ship is in port for best washer availability. Take a magazine or book and plan to stay with your clothing until they are done.
  • One final plus is that you can go home with a suitcase full of clean clothes as you reenter reality.

Pack Items to Make Laundry Easier on the Road

  • Carry a flat rubber stopper just in case sinks or tubs are missing theirs so you can fill the sink for handwashing clothes.
  • With travel restrictions on liquids, pack some laundry detergent sheets. Detergent sheets that dissolve in water are available online and from camping stores. 
  • Whether you have a travel clothesline; make your own using some string; or just need to clip socks to the bottom of the lampshade, clothespins are a must. Plus, clothespins will keep drapes closed for privacy and light-free sleeping.
  • Inflatable clothes hangers take up no space in a travel bag and are great for hanging clothes to dry. They improve air circulation better than thin hangers to make drying quicker. Plus some hotels have hangers that can only be used in the closet, not for drip drying over a bathtub.
  • If you can't take care of soiled clothing before it's time to pack up and move on, use a mesh laundry bag to separate them from clean clothes.

Plan to Outsource Laundry for Ease

If you travel frequently for business, you probably have a routine that works well for you and keeps you looking sharp. For a novice traveler, it's a good idea to find a local laundry that offers one-day service for both dry cleaning and laundry. They are usually less expensive than in-hotel laundry service. Ask the hotel concierge for recommendations.

Be Picky When Packing

Unless you travel with an entourage that can handle your every need, start by packing wisely with low-maintenance clothing.

  • Stick with darker colors that can stand up to multiple wearings longer than an all-white wardrobe.
  • Stay with one or two color families so that mix and match are easier. This will also make fewer laundry loads because they can be washed together.
  • Avoid fabrics that take forever to dry. Microfiber pants will dry overnight, jeans will not.

Wear It and Leave It

The easiest travel laundry to do is none. Pack clothing that you are willing to dispose of after you wear it. You'll have space in your luggage for new purchases and no laundry when you get home.